Wendepunkt is a German word that means turning point. In Modernism, Ray Bradbury defines wendepunkt as the moment in a novel “in which there is an unexpected yet in retrospect not unmotivated turn of events, a reorientation which one can see now is not only wholly consistent but logical and possibly even inevitable.” This moment often involves a reversal of the protagonist’s fortunes. Aristotle called it peripeteia, the crisis action of a tragedy.
In her masterful guide to narrative craft, Writing Fiction, Janet Burroway says, “A reversal of some sort is necessary to all story structure, comic as well as tragic. Although the protagonist need not lose power, land, or life, he or she must in some significant way be changed or moved by the action.” This internal and external change, when it comes, may surprise the reader, but should be organic to the plot. Whether shocking or confusing or exhilarating, it should feel intrinsic to the story.